Last week in Birmingham I caught up with Chris Baker, from The Long, Long Trail website and FouteenEighteen.co.uk after he had just given one of his very popular talks to a group of enthusiastic family historians on the subject of Military records.
Chris had discovered the rich military records set on TheGenealogist and was thus able to tell his audience about some of what he found useful on that website.
He particularly drew our attention to the Casualty records sourced from the War Office and told us how well done and useful TheGenealogist website was for Military researchers of the First World War with some interesting niche record sets.
Transcript of the video:
Hi I’m Nick Thorne from the Nosey Genealogist blog
and I’m here on TheGenealogist website’s stand
with Chris Baker a military expert
from Fourteen Eighteen website and he’s just been doing a talk
on military records.
Hi Chris. Hello Nick.
How did it go?
Great, thank you! Great audience,
tremendous buzz, very nice to be here to give the
The subject of the talk was the very
fast changing world of
military records and how digitization has really changed
the way people can access information,
understand military records and
work out what happened to their soldier.
And yes it’s a it’s good to run
through what’s going on, but also
to highlight TheGenealogist and the various unique sets of records. Which is actually how I came to
meet TheGenealogist myself. I found
they’ve got some casualty lists that were newly digitized
from the War Office originals. I personally found it extremely
well done and very helpful and I contacted the
company to say so.
And it just led to us being here and me being invited to give the talk.
That’s really interesting, so you’d recommend TheGenealogist for military research?
Military records cover a very wide span of subjects,
as you know, TheGenealogist
has got for itself a very interesting
collection of what you might call niche records,
but they’re the ones that can really
help you unlock the story sometimes, particularly if a man’s
service record is missing or you can’t find him in medal records
These things will help you unlock it and
for that purpose, yes TheGenealogist, for me is a
very important provider now in in the
field of Military History.
Okay, so if our viewers want to contact you
they look for FourteenEighteen on the Internet?
Yes, they can find me, in terms of the professional services at www.14-18.co.uk
but they will also find my free of charge website which has existed for a long
time and is very popular
on the subject of the British Army in
the first world war, it’s called The Long, Long trial
it’s at www.1914-1918.net
And it contains lots of information about
regiments, how to research soldiers
and all that sort of stuff.
Great, thanks very much Chris.
You are very welcome.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
I’ve been having a look at the S&N newsletter, that popped into my email box at the end of the week.
What caught my eye was a fascinating Victorian murder story that took place in the St Helier streets quite local to where I live. I’ve come across it before in the book The Policeman and the Brothel by Theodore Dalrymple, but this is the first time that I’ve seen it written from the family history records point of view!
It was fascinating to see the Illustrated London News report from March 7th 1846; the census records, with the tell tale blanks for the occupations of the young prostitutes, and the criminal records showing the killer was transported for life to Van Diemens land. Also to be seen is the huge monument for the murdered policeman in Green Street cemetery, a picture of which can be searched for in TheGenealogist’s growing Volunteer Headstone Database that now includes many Jersey burials.
The newsletter isn’t just about this story. They begin with a look at what will be coming online from their group throughout 2015:
Parish Records, detailed County and Tithe Maps, millions of new Medals Records, more Grave Memorials from the Volunteer Headstone Project, records of Railway Workers from Pensions to Staff Movements, Jewish records, detailed Street Maps, Passenger Lists, Emigration Records and more War Memorials are all going online at TheGenealogist this year.
And then we hear that this month they’ve released more War Memorials, Parish Records and have now added the 1911 census for all Starter and Gold Subscribers! You can make the most of this with £30 cash back on an Annual Gold Subscription, making it just £48.95 for the first year!
Finally, there is that interesting article I’ve already drawn you attention to above about Ancestors that fell foul of the law. As the S&N team write in the email, these are always fascinating subjects for family history research and I would say none more than a Victorian murder story of a notorious Madam who escaped the hangman’s noose!
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
A collection of over half a million unique Parish Records has been added to TheGenealogist.
These cover the counties of Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Monmouthshire and Worcestershire. The new online records offer invaluable records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from the 1500s to the late 1800s from Anglican parish registers. The records are a great tool for those people looking to track down early ancestors before civil registration.
The latest releases bring the total to over 2 million parish records already added in 2014 with more to come. Fully searchable and clearly transcribed on TheGenealogist, they provide hundreds of years of records helping you find those early ancestors to further extend your family tree.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist remarked: “With Parish and Nonconformist Records it is possible to go back so much further and you never know what new surprises or dramatic events you may uncover in the records. We are continually adding more records to our already extensive collection throughout 2014.”
Discover surprising details that can be found in the Parish Record collection.
Many of the records are rare, historic parish records, published online for the first time and offer us unexpected information of dramatic events at the time. In the latest records, we find details of one of the protestant martyrs in the 1500s.
Protestants in England & Wales were executed under Queen Mary I with legislation that punished anyone found guilty of heresy against Roman Catholicism. The standard penalty for treason was execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. In this case, however, the punishment of “burning” was used for those found guilty of not being of the Catholic faith.
At least 300 people were recognised as martyred over the five years of Mary’s reign, causing her to be known as “Bloody Mary”. The name of one of the world’s most popular cocktail drinks is also said to be named after her!
A number of the executions were carried out in the county of Essex including that of linen draper, Thomas Wattes from Billericay, whose wife Elizabeth is found in the new parish records. Here we see the burial record of Elizabeth Wattes in the parish of Great Burstead on TheGenealogist. Her record describes her husband as a “Martyr of God” with the added extra note in the record giving details of his death- “The Blessed Martyr of God who for his truth suffered his martyrdom in the fire at Chelmsford.”
Oliver Cromwell and his son Robert Cromwell
Robert Cromwell appears in the new parish record sets buried in the parish of Felsted in Essex, son of Oliver Cromwell. Robert was the eldest son of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell and he died whilst away studying at school at the age of 18. Here we find a copy of his burial record from 1639.
The Genealogist site has an extremely comprehensive collection of data sets, which are ever growing. Their ability to react quickly to their customers was demonstrated to me only this week when I had a problem resolved by them within minutes of me bringing it to their attention.
At a time when social media is full of complaints about the functionality of other genealogical data sites, I’d recommend you take a serious look today at what is on offer from TheGenealogist
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this post.
I’ve been going to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for a few years now and except for one, where the weather conspired to keep me away with thick fog marooning me in Jersey for days, I have seen the show go from strength to strength.
I love the mix of experts to consult, the varying subjects of the talks in the different theatres, the the range of family history exhibitors and the whole buzz of the show.
Tickets have gone on sale at their website and they have announced a number of exciting exhibitors new to the show, giving the visitor even more ways to explore their family history. Perhaps I could just draw your attention to the one at the bottom of this list, as the name may seem familiar?
New Exhibitors at the 2014 show Olympia, 20-22nd February:
Unlock the Past – this company combines hobbies and holidays by offering history and genealogy cruises, as well as genealogy e-books.
BRD Associates – preserve your story through theirÂ professional video life story recording, story books and old image restoration.
Borders Ancestry – if you have ancestors living throughout the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, then consider thisÂ professional research service.
QI Wellness Centre – a company who specialise inÂ the healing of your family’s inherited patterns.
Calico Pie – try their family historian deluxe genealogy software for size
Open University – is it time for you to take a course toÂ study family or local history?
Imperial War Museum – contribute to the museum’s ambitious WWI centenary project by uploading the life story of your ancestor’s role in WWI
RAF Museum – last at the show in 2011,Â get the very best advice in tracing your RAF ancestors
Fast Track Engraving – watch their demonstration of engraving and purchase your own memorial medallion to commemorate family members in WWI
Dr Williams Library – find out more about library research
Brythonium – create a tangible family history using their family legacy cards
The Book Alchemist – why not consider a virtual boot camp on how to turnÂ your family history into a written legacy?
The Nosey Genealogist – take a family history course using downloadable tutorials and audio CDs’
Of course you don’t have to wait until the show to take advantage of my Family History Researcher Academy course on English and Welsh Family history as there is a banner ad on the right hand side of this very blog!
As for WDYTYA?LIVE, New exhibitors will continually be added in the run up to the show so don’t forget to keep checking to see who is going to be there at: http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com
I’d like to welcome any new members of my online course The Family History Researcher Academy that may be reading this blog for the first time today. I aim to post articles and advice here that will help those of you researching your British Isles ancestors. Sometimes the post will be about my own experience of using an online data set, an offline resource at a record office or some other archive, and sometimes it is to draw your attention to a new resource that has been launched by one of the main genealogy look-up sites.
Today I’d like to feature a new resource for those with sea going ancestors published by my friends over at TheGenealogist. It gives details of over 439,000 Royal Navy and Merchant Seamen records which are searchable by name, rank, age and ship. The full crew list can be displayed for any of the ships.
Covering the years 1851-1911, these include lists and agreements for those involved in merchant shipping and ship crews for those at home ports, sea and abroad.
Details given may include age, place of birth, rank and ticket number, previous and current ships with ports of registration, dates, place and reason for joining and leaving.
The records are from a variety of sources which include BT98 and specialist county and non-county census records. Read more here.
I’ve had an email from genealogist and author Anthony Adolph this week. For long term readers of this blog you may remember that he provided me with a fantastic interview at the Who Do Yo Think You Are? LIVE back in 2011 which you can revisit here if you so wish.
Well Anthony wanted to draw my readers attention to a project that he is involved with to find people who may be related to President Lincoln.
It is to help celebrate the British launch of Steven Spielbergâ€™s movie â€˜Lincolnâ€™ and the 204th anniversary of the presidentâ€™s birth on 12 February, that he is working with the Illinois Office of Tourism to find British relatives of Americaâ€™s most famous president.
In 1637, Samuel Lincoln, an apprentice weaver in Norwich, left his home in the obscure Norfolk village of Hingham to brave a voyage across the Atlantic. Samuel had no idea he would survive to raise a family in the new colonies of America, let alone that his great great great grandson Abraham would become one of the greatest figures in American history.
This means that if you have ancestors from Hingham or have Lincoln ancestors from the Norwich area, you could have President Lincoln in your family tree!
Illinois, the home state of Abraham Lincoln, hosts many Lincoln attractions and is a great place to visit for a truly adventurous holiday, where you can visit the house Lincoln shared with Mary Todd, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Springfield cemetery where he is buried.
If you know of a family connection with the Lincolns of Hingham, Norfolk, please contact Anthony Adolph via www.anthonyadolph.co.uk. You could be in for a trip to Illinois!
Many of us, researching our family trees, come up against the inevitable brick wall of forebears that don’t appear in the documents in the places where we expect to find them. Sometimes this can be because they have been recorded, but the spelling of the name differs each time an official makes an attempt to write it down.
Brick Wall buster tip 1. Can’t find anyone of that name? Try searching for variants as in the past spelling was not an exact science.
This week I was revisiting my ancestors who married in Gloucester and then went on to have a daughter baptised in Devon that eventually married a Thorn and so perpetuated the Thorn/Thorne line that leads down the tree to me.
One of the problems that I have with this branch is that they were not literate and had no idea of how to spell their surname. The evidence is in the parish register for Dartmouth, where I first pick up the female line. Both parties, to the marriage between the Thorns and the Sissells made their mark and did not sign. The register gives me the name of the father of the bride as James Sissell as he makes his mark as a witness.
Elizabeth Gardiner Thorn, as she becomes on her marriage, is eventually buried in Dartmouth and I can trace her in the census records and on her death certificate as having been my 2x great-grandmother, from the names of her family in these records. This is how I know that I am investigating the correct person.
Researching the christening of Elizabeth backwards, in the IGI on familysearch.org, I find that she was given the name of Elizabeth Gardiner Sissill and I also find the marriage of a James Sysal to a Sarah Gardiner in 1780 in St Nicholas’ church Gloucester.
So now I have three versions of the spelling of their surname, Sissell, Sissill and Sysal, but it is only the beginning!
I found that Elizabeth had a brother, Thomas, though at his christening the vicar entered his surname as Sizzall in the parish registers.
Turning my attention to the deaths of Elizabeth’s parents – as any good family historian always will try to kill off their ancestors – I have only just had some luck after my visit to the Devon Family History Society’s Tree House in Exeter and to the County Record Office to look at the microfiche copies of parish records.
I had no idea if James and Sarah had remained in Dartmouth of whether they had moved on, or even back to Gloucester.
With the aid of the various printed booklets of transcripts, from the DFHS, I was able to identify a Sarah Sisell (the fifth version of the surname) buried on March the 17th 1831 in the St Saviour’s burials transcripts and a James Saissell (sixth version of the spelling) buried on the 5th January 1835 in St. Saviour’s Dartmouth. Then I could look at the relevant microfiche copy of the register, in the County Record Office, to confirm the transcript was correct.
Spelling was so much more fluid in our ancestor’s day. Indeed the words “Burials” “Marriages” and “Baptisms”, at the top of the pages in the very same register, changed form throughout the different years!
I can only assume that all the variants of the surname, as recorded above and said with a West Country accent, could have sounded much alike to the hapless vicar whose registers display the fact that spelling was not fixed, as it has become today.
I’ve been using a great map tool at the LDS site, familysearch.org, this weekend and I have to say it has proved to be really useful so far. My attention was drawn to it by an article in this month’s Who Do You Think Tou Are? Magazine (Issue 59, April 2012) dealing with 50 Ways to get more from FamilySearch.org.
Tip number 7 is Explore Maps of English Jurisdictions. The idea is to see several types of jurisdictional boundaries, such as parish boundaries, poor law unions, counties, diocese and more on a map tool on your screen. By using different layers you are able to see the borders of each superimposed on to a Google map, or click to see Satellite or an 1851 Ordnance Survey Map instead.
I found using the “Radius Place Search” one of the most useful features in my quest this week. It is interesting to find out how far away from the parish, where my ancestors lived at one time, were the other Parishes in the area. I could specify 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1, 5, 10 miles, or 20 miles radius to plot those within walking, or perhaps horse riding distance from the first.
I was using this tool to look at a line of forebears who suddenly turn up in one town and feature for a few generations, in the registers of the parish. My investigation is now to find out whether they moved in from the surrounding countryside and so I can specify a start parish and then, using the information box that appears on the map, then select the tab called “Options”.
Next I selected “Radius Place Search”. I was then able to select, from a drop-down menu, the various distances from between 1/4 mile to 20 miles and be provided with a list of parishes that fitted the criteria. I also made sure that I had selected the Parish and County options from the “Layers” tab on the left hand side. This, so that I could see the jurisdiction’s borders marked on the map.
By now selecting the tab “List” I could hover my cursor over the named parish and a pin would appear on the map at the place marking the parish. By changing the map from a modern Google map to the 1851 Ordnance Survey I was able to find a hamlet or area name that was of interest to my family and then go on to find the nearest parish to it that was within walking distance.
This is a really useful tool and the best thing is that it is FREE!
Go to http://maps.familysearch.org and try it yourself.
I’ve used trade directories before, when I was tracing my tradesmen ancestors down in Plymouth. At that time I’d found one enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder on the 1861 census employingÂ one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City. This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester’s site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory. Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time.
This week I had turned my attention to my maternal great-grandfather. In a book, complied on the family, that I was lucky enough to have found on the shelves of the Society of Genealogists, in Goswell Road, London, my ancestor was given a brief mention in between his more illustrious brother’s, cousin’s and forefather’s. What I was able to glean, from this book, was that Edward Massy Hay had been a merchant in London for a period in the 1860’s, after a short spell in the army.
The book had been complied by his Father, Charles Crosland Hay and completed by his cousin on the death of the former. It gave me a clue that all was not well in the business world of Edward, as a line simply said: “Partner in the firm of Stevens & Hay, Merchants in London; on its failure he became a tea-planter in Ceylon.”
My first reaction was to see if the business went bankrupt and was mentioned in the London Gazette. I checked the website at www.london-gazette.co.uk, where it is possible to search back through the archives for free, but I found nothing on the business. I’d read a tip that it was always worth checking the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, in case the bankruptcy had been hidden in one of these publications. The results came back negative and so it looks as if the business was wound up without going bankrupt.
Recently, on taking a look around TheGenealogist.co.uk‘s data sets, I came across the 1869 Kelly’s Post Office Directory for London on their site. By entering “Stevens and Hay” I was eventually able to locate their business to an office at 65 Fenchurch Street, London. EC3
Moving on, to a Kelly’s Directory for 1880 London, I found my great-grandfather listed as living in Princes Square, Bayswater, London. Also at that address was his sister, Mrs Mary Ann Webster, whose husband was in the Madras Civil Service. But I had already begun investigating the move to Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka), by my ancestor. By 1880 he was appearing in a directory for that island, as well as at Bayswater!
From a website, dedicated to the history of Ceylon Tea (www.historyofceylontea.com), I found there are links to many years of the Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory. In 1880 Edward M. Hay was an Assistant for R.Books & Co of London, in the British Colony. He appears in several of the directories, one of which has him as Chairman of his local area’s planters association and in 1905 he was listed as the owner of a tea estate called Denmark in Dolosbage, Ceylon.
This little peep into my great-grandfather’s life was made possible by the use of various trade directories and the fact that they have been scanned and uploaded to websites on the internet. But before I turned off my computer, on a whim I decided to enter the address that he had shared with his sister in London into Google street view. I was rewarded with the Georgian fronts of Princes Square and easily found the house where he lived. It is now a small hotel and so its address is on the internet.
A search for 65 Fenchurch Street, and the offices, shows that they have been replaced by a modern vista. Lastly, I did a Google search for the Denmark Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and by chance it still exists! Using Google Earth I was able to use the satellite view to see, from the air, the hillside estate that once was where my great-grandfather cultivated tea.
It seems to me to be well worth using some of these alternative tools, available to us, when doing family history research. They may add just a little bit of flesh to the bones of facts gained from the census data or the birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors.